Aussie bluegrass brothers Hamish and Lachlan Davidson spent the last week of April in the US, tracking for their next Davidson Brothers album Here To Stay. They were assisted by Mike Bubb on bass, Bryan Sutton on guitar, Randy Kohrs on reso and Aubrey Haynie on fiddle.
Despite appearances to the contrary, the 20-something brothers are not twins. Older brother Hamish plays banjo, and his younger (by 17 months) sibling Lachlan mandolin. Both of them switch off on guitar and fiddle as well, and share in the lead and harmony singing.
They both discovered bluegrass in their pre-teens and worked their way through the Australian fiddle, mandolin and banjo competition circuit, with both boys winning multiple national championships over the past decade. While continuing in bluegrass, both Davidsons also studied in college. Hamish has a chiropractic practice, and Lachlan is a mechanical engineer.
Performing professionally, they have won several awards from the Country Music Association of Australia where they are noted for their showmanship in addition to top flight picking and singing. And these aren’t just awards in bluegrass niche categories; they won 2010 Group of the Year at the Australian Independent Country Music Awards.
Here’s a taste of their sound, a music video for the title track of their Raised On The Road CD.
We interviewed brother Hamish shortly after their return Down Under, and he spoke about their trip to the States and the new CD.
“The album is called Here to Stay for a number of reasons. Primarily, there have been lots of changes in the music industry in recent years which have had an adverse effect on countless musical artists. However, independent artists like ourselves continue to grow at a steady pace. This is our seventh recording project (the fourth album recorded in Nashville, TN) and we have no intentions of slowing down. On Here to Stay we explore a range of lyric themes, but it is a bluegrass album. It’s all acoustic and it grooves along. The sounds are rootsy, bluesy and soulful.”
How was the recording process this time round?
“We are definitely getting more relaxed with each record. Some of the new material was more difficult to play and sing than the repertoire on previous records. I believe this is a result of the music being written around the lyrics rather than the other way around.
With each record, too, our connection as brothers grows stronger and we find it easier to write together and sing harmonies for each other. As people who know us both will attest, Lachlan and I have very different personalities. When we are writing together, our minds tend to polarize toward different tasks. Lachlan writes more with the right (creative/intuitive) side of his brain and I tend to favor the left (logical/methodical).”
Where did you record?
“We recorded at Mark Thornton’s Sidekick Sound Studios in Nashville Tennessee. About ten years ago I heard an album which Mark had produced, and it has always stood out to me as a benchmark for sound quality. His production has so much personality and he is good friends with all our favorite musicians, which is very handy.”
Who produced the record?
“We actually have two producers, Mark Thornton and Larry Marrs. Mark is originally from Iowa and played guitar in Jerry Reed’s band for 12 years and founded Sidekick Sound Studios in 2000. He has performed on the Grand Ole Opry many times and recorded over 150 albums for various artists, including many Pickin’ On’ projects. He often says,’Nobody has more fun than the Davidson Brothers.’
We met Kentuckian Larry Marrs when Mark recommended him to sing harmonies on our self-titled album in 2007. Larry no longer performs on stage, and he won’t tell you, but his 35 year career boasts of tours with such artists as Randy Travis and Willie Nelson. Larry also sung harmonies on George Jones’ legendary Cold Hard Truth album. Mark coordinates all the logistics and helps arrange the music. Larry is our primary engineer, mixer and vocal coach.”
Anything different on this project?
“I think people will notice that we are maturing as songwriters and musicians.
Part of my right forearm actually went numb (fortunately my three picking fingers don’t rely on the ulnar nerve) when we were recording a 180 beat per minute banjo instrumental titled OMFG, so they’d better notice the energy we put into the project!”
How long did you spend in the US?
“Well, we arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday, 22nd April, did a gig at the famous Kibitz Room in Canter’s Deli on Fairfax in Hollywood that night. The punters were taking the clothes off before the gig even started. Crazy town!
The following morning we flew over to Nashville. Nobody works on Sundays in the Southern states, so we just chilled out for the day, went to watch some live bluegrass, and caught up with some good friends we have over there.
On Monday we had a meeting with our producers to make sure our songs were polished and everything was set to run smoothly the next day. The band tracking happened on Tuesday. Lachlan and I, plus four other musicians (upright bass, dobro, guitar, fiddle) cut eleven songs that day.
Then Wednesday-Friday we handled the overdubs: lead vocals, harmony vocals, and some instrumental dubs. We flew home on the Friday night.
6 days in the USA. 4 days in the studio.”
Have a good time in the US?
“Well, we’d traveled a long way to not make the most of our time there. We went out to gigs and jam sessions every night, living on an average of two to three hours sleep a night. Lachlan and I got separated on our last night in town and, let’s just say, were very late getting to the studio that morning.
The police even rocked up at the studio one day because we were playing too fast.”
Hamish and Lachlan are preparing for another big trip next month, heading to Netherlands for the 2011 European World of Bluegrass, followed by a number of shows in Germany and a pleasure trip to Sweden.
Here To Stay is set for a July 1 release date, with pre-orders enable now on the Davidson Brothers web site.